Apr 14, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) walks off the court after being injured in the first quarter of the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

How LeBron James' Decision Affects The Boston Celtics

Well, there goes that dream, Boston Celtics fans!

Yesterday, I wrote a piece that described why the Boston Celtics should still be considered major player in the “Get Kevin Love NOW!” game that is sweeping the NBA.  I never argued that Boston was going to be the team that Minnesota wound up making a deal with, but as of yesterday, there was little doubt that the Celtics were the team that was probably the most willing to give the Timberwolves whatever they wanted in exchange for Kevin Love’s services.

Man, how one essay to Sports Illustrated can change the league.

LeBron James‘ decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise instantly makes the Cavs the front-runner in the game of Love.   You don’t have to be a basketball genius to figure that out.  With the number one pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Andrew Wiggins, as a trading chip, Cleveland has the absolute best chance to pry Love away from Flip Saunders and the Timberwolves.



Granted, there are still conflicting reports on whether Cleveland would have the stones to move Wiggins, who could win up becoming a superstar along with Kink James and Kyrie Irving.  If Wiggins is not included in the deal, it’s hard to imagine Cleveland getting Love, since it has become pretty apparent that Minnesota is being very stingy when it comes to their All-Star forward (as they should . . . for now).  Still, it’s hard to imagine the Cavaliers saying, “No,” if LeBron asks them to go out and get Love.  Watching the Boston Celtics may have been a bit of a pipe dream, but at least it was a dream that had a chance in hell of coming true.  

Today, the game has changed – but I’m here to tell you, this may not be a bad thing.

Getting Kevin Love would have turbo-charged the Celtics’ offense, no doubt about that.  However, with Love unwilling to commit to a contract extension at the time of the trade, and with Boston likely to surrender Jared Sullinger, at least one other player, and a handful of future draft picks, such a trade would have been throwing out the baby with the bath water – a quick fix that could actually do more long-term harm than good.

Now, if the Celtics’ front office has any dignity and common sense, the team should be looking at other players who can improve this team – Greg Monroe or Roy Hibbert, for example – players who the Celtics can get today without entirely giving up tomorrow.  A team consisting of Rajon Rondo, Love, Kelly Olynyk and a bench of role players and rookies was never going to win a championship, anyway, and would have stripped Boston of the tools it needs to build a team that can make a run for banner number 18.

So maybe the Boston Celtics should be thanking LeBron James?  That depends on whether you want Rajon Rondo to remain in Titletown:

Just a couple of weeks ago, Love reportedly nixed a possible trade to the Cavs, saying he wouldn’t re-sign there. Now, he is open to the idea of signing with Cleveland if a trade takes place. I wonder what changed his mind?

That’s bad news for the Celtics, obviously, who can’t match Cleveland’s offer of No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves. No combination of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart and draft picks can trump that. Wolves coach/president/part-owner Flip Saunders’ patience will have paid off mightily if he ends up netting Wiggins, although such a move would contradict his stated goal of not taking a backward step, even temporarily.

But the Celtics lose more than a shot at an All-Star power forward. They could lose an All-Star point guard, too.

Holding onto Rondo just doesn’t make sense for the Celtics anymore if Love goes to Cleveland. He’s 28 years old, with one year and $12.9 million left on his contract. The minor moves the Celtics made so far this offseason have not vaulted them out of NBA purgatory in the short-term. It simply wouldn’t be fair, to Rondo or to the Celtics, to keep him around.

Apr 9, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo (9) attempts a three in the first quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

More than ever, the Boston Celtics need to make up their minds: do they try and build a team around Rondo, not only with the intent to make Rondo want to re-sign with the team, but with the hopes that Boston could become a legitimate championship contender within 2-3 years? Or do they jettison Rondo and commit to a full-blown, 4-5 year rebuild, complete with another trip to the NBA lottery next year?

Decisions, decisions.

I cannot say I like the idea of trading Rondo, because I think he truly wants to remain in Boston, and because I know what he is worth to the team.  And with no solid options at point guard available right now, in my opinion it would be wise for Boston to make a trade for an impact player such as Roy Hibbert, which would make the Celtics better next season and prove to Rondo that the rebuild is going to be accomplished both swiftly and intelligently.

But I’m just one man not named Danny Ainge, so my thoughts don’t amount to much more than the Monopoly money sitting in my kid’s favorite board game, now do they?


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